Each year, approximately 4.5 million dog bites occur in the United States, according to statistics from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention; the majority of these bites happen to children ages 5 to 9, and most are from a known pet, not an unknown dog. All breeds can bite, for any number of reasons. Education is the key to dog bite prevention, and one international organization, Doggone Safe, promotes educational initiatives to increase child safety around dogs and prevent injuries associated with bites.
“More than 50 percent of American homes have dogs, and many of these are family dogs that live around children,” explains Niki Tudge, president of Doggone Safe. “Our goals are to keep children safe and to keep dogs in homes. We bring these animals into our homes and we have an obligation to them.”
That obligation, Tudge continues, is to train and socialize our pets properly and learn to understand the way they communicate, in the interest of living harmoniously together.
“Dogs are wonderful comm-unicators—we all know what a scared dog looks like—but subtle signs get missed and bites occur,” she says. “If families have a bit of education to recognize these signs, we could reduce the number of bites and, consequently, reduce the number of dogs that are given up to shelters.”
Locally, Doggone Safe has established a partnership with the San Diego chapter of the Emergency Nurses Association (ENA), thanks to the dedication of Kay Moore, an emergency room nurse at Rady Children’s Hospital and a dog trainer for nearly 20 years. Moore’s experience of seeing roughly 250 dog bites every year at the hospital led her to petition the ENA to support this cause. The ENA responded by providing Moore with a $10,000 grant for injury prevention—money that Moore used to create educational materials for alerting the public to potential warning signs in dog body language.
“Dogs tell us with their bodies when they are uncomfortable and would rather be left alone,” Moore says. “Many bites can be avoided if people learn to read a dog’s body language.”
—Christina Orlovsky Page
6 SIGNS YOUR DOG NEEDS SOME SPACE
Back away if you notice the following:
- High, slowly wagging tail, stiff body, and mouth closed tight
- Rapid tongue lick or flick
- “Half-moon eye” or head turn, gazing away from what’s bothering them
- Yawning when wide awake
- Tail and ears tucked close to body
- “Freeze and stare,” which indicates an impending bite